November 6, 2008
Berlusconi: Obama ‘Handsome and Suntanned’
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, on an official visit to Russia, described U.S. President-elect Barack Obama as "young, handsome and even suntanned."
The joke, if that is what it was, provoked ridicule and anger in Italy, The Daily Telegraph reported.
"Right on time, here comes the first sensational gaffe," said La Repubblica, one of the country's major newspapers.
Berlusconi made the remark while speculating on the effect of the U.S. election on relations with Russia and its president, Dmitry Medvedev. He later said that those who criticized his remark are "imbeciles" without a sense of humor.
"I don't see problems for Medvedev to establish good relations with Obama, who is also handsome, young and suntanned," Berlusconi said.
Dario Franceschini, an opposition member of parliament, demanded that Berlusconi apologize. Referring to Obama, who is half-Kenyan, as "suntanned," is "an insult loaded with dangerous ambiguity," he said.
Franceschini also said Berlusconi should remember that his quips contribute to the image of Italy in other countries.